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Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls Recipe

Andrea is a home baker who loves to perfect challenging cakes, breads, and the like. She is on a quest to find the perfect flavor combos.

Cinnamon Rolls That Aren't Too Sweet

These cinnamon rolls are soft, sweet, and elegant. They're not overpowering with sugar, and they're not muted. They have a slightly tangy flavor from the sourdough.

The recipe is fairly easy. When I made the rolls for the pictures, the dough wasn't sticky; it was supple and easy to manage. The dough rolls and flattens with ease, making it possible to create the cinnamon swirl effect. I tried to shape the rolls into hearts, but they puffed back into their traditional circular shape. The rolls will expand during the bake.

I think adding a hint of cardamom gives the rolls a better flavor. It gives them a sophisticated edge rather than a sugary-child-like cinnamon roll (there is a time for that).

On This Page

  • Cook Time
  • Timing Notes
  • Tools
  • Ingredients
  • Instructions
  • Photo Instructions
  • Recipe Notes

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

16 hours

35 min

16 hours 35 min

9 rolls

Timing Notes

The cinnamon roll recipe doesn't call for anything too challenging, but it is time-consuming. It's best to start this recipe on a night that leads into a day off.

  • First rise: overnight (8-12 hours)
  • Second rise: 1-2 hours

Sourdough recipes tend to be time-consuming, so if you're used to working with sourdough this isn't a hard recipe.

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Tools

  • Stand mixer with paddle attachment and dough hook: I recommend making the dough in a stand mixer. You can make it by hand, but it will have a stickier texture. You could also try making the dough in a bread machine (dough setting). A paddle attachment and dough hook will be helpful.
  • Food processor: This is helpful when making glazes. I almost always use one for icing, frosting, and the like.
  • Parchment paper: This makes life easier than baking the rolls directly on a tray, even with butter or oil.
  • Tape measurer or ruler: This will come in handy to measure your rolled-out dough and for getting the right measurements when cutting.

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2/3 cup milk, whole or 2%
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and chilled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter, bubbly, active
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cooking spray or oil, for coating

For the cinnamon-sugar filling:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, or more

For the glaze:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk, add more to thin glaze
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions

  1. Important note: The dough needs about 8-12 hours to rise. I recommend making the dough at night and letting it rise overnight. Combine the melted butter and milk in a small bowl. Let it chill before using. I put mine in the fridge while I work on the next steps.
  2. Add the egg, sourdough starter, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment. Blend the ingredients together on a slow setting. Once it is thoroughly combined, slowly add the milk mixture (or add the milk mixture in sections).
  3. Add the flour in half cups. Wait until it is thoroughly mixed before adding in more flour. Add the salt. Continue mixing until the dough is rough and slightly sticky. Scrape any residue off the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel. Set a timer for 30 minutes: let the dough rest.
  4. After 30 minutes have passed, switch out the paddle attachment to the dough hook. Knead on a medium-low setting for 6-8 minutes. If it's not clumping together, add a teaspoon of water (more if needed). The dough should come all together in one round ball. Feel it to make sure it is soft. It should be supple when you pull it from the sides. If it's too sticky add flour.
  5. Melt some butter and coat the bowl (I use the same one just to cut down on dishes). Put the dough in the bowl and roll it in the butter and spread it out evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rise overnight in a spot that's about 66-70°F. It needs to double in size. I leave my dough in the oven with the oven light on to give it a slight amount of heat. The rise will take 8-12 hours; this will depend on the conditions of your kitchen and your sourdough starter.
  6. Optional step: Fold the dough about 30 minutes to 1 hour into the rise. Stretch and fold the dough toward the center. Four folds should be enough. This step will increase the volume of the rolls.
  7. After the rise, put parchment paper on a baking sheet. Lightly cover it with flour. This will help prevent the rolls from losing their shape and colliding into each other.
  8. Gently shape your dough into a rectangle. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  9. Make the cinnamon-sugar filling: Make sure the butter is softened. You can set it out early or zap it in the microwave for about 15 seconds, just don't melt it. In a small bowl, mix the butter with the sugar, cinnamon, flour, and cardamom. It should have a nice consistency.
  10. Lightly flour a countertop or large surface area. Flour-dust the dough and a rolling pin. Roll the dough into a 16 x 12 inch or so rectangle. Measure it. If the dough isn't working with the rolling pin, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes, and then try to roll it again.
  11. Spread the cinnamon-sugar filling on the dough. Leave about a 1-inch border around the edges. I would suggest doing brushstrokes one way (left-to-right) and then going another direction (up and down). This will help spread the filling. It can take time to even out the clumps.
  12. From the long side of your dough, roll it into a log. Gently press it down and slowly move the roll forward. You want it to be tight to keep the cinnamon swirl intact. Don't roll the whole thing in one big and fast motion.
  13. Oil a knife or spray it with cooking spray. Cut the dough into 2-inch sections. Use a ruler or tape measurer.
  14. Place the rolls on the baking tray and let rest for 1-2 hours. You may need to reshape them a touch. The rolls should be puffed up. Move the rolls to two 9inch round baking sheets with clean parchment paper. I put 4 rolls in one round and 5 in the other. (Baking them on the old parchment paper with flour could create unwanted coating.)
  15. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check at 30 minutes. The tops should turn light golden brown. (I pulled mine out at 33 minutes.)
  16. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. When they've cooled, pull off any excess cinnamon that spread off the rolls. (It's like a cinnamon toffee candy.) Place the rolls on a wire rack.
  17. For the glaze: Add softened butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar to a processor. To thin the consistency, add milk (add as needed). Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and white chocolate for a little more flavor. The glaze will have the best results if the ingredients are softened or at room temperature.
  18. Lather up the rolls with the glaze. Sprinkle a touch of powdered sugar. To keep them warm and fresh, leave the rolls in the cooled-down oven with the oven light on.

Recipe Notes

Sourdough recipes can radically change depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If it's colder or winter, it may take longer for your dough to rise. When it comes to sourdough bakes, always make sure you have plenty of time. It's best not to make something with sourdough in it on a day where you're busy or have a lot of tasks to accomplish.

Dough Notes

  • How to prevent sticking: Oiling your counter before rolling the dough might prevent it from sticking. I didn't have any problems with the dough sticking when I just floured my countertop.
  • How to tell when it's done rising: Besides waiting for it to double in size, one of the best ways to tell if it's done is to poke it and see if it springs back. You should tap it and the dough should spring back gradually. It's more important to watch the dough than to follow strict deadlines.
  • Thickness of rolled-out dough: You can go beyond the 16 x 12 dimensions suggested for the rolled-out dough. It would be smart to make the dough equivalent and not too thick or too thin in spots.

Other Notes

  • Butter: For the butter, I normally melt it in the microwave. I'll put it in a bowl and cover it with a plate. I find melting butter in a saucepan tends to evaporate some of the butter.
  • Cardamom: If you like the taste of cardamom, you could add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon to the cinnamon-sugar filling. I like a hint of it since the real star of the bake is the cinnamon.
  • Glaze flavors: You can play with different glaze flavors. For Valentine's Day, throw in some strawberries into the processor. Green food coloring and mint for St. Patrick's Day, orange food coloring and pumpkin flavoring for Halloween, and peppermint extract for Christmas.
  • Heart shapes: To make hearts: don't try to shape the rolls after the fact, like I did. One way to do it is to cut the rolled-out dough into strips of the same size. Roll each strip on opposite ends meeting at the center. Loosen the long strand a little to give a triangular point.

© 2022 Andrea Lawrence

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